3 strategic ways to compensate for the lack of automation industry experts.

Posted on October 18, 2020 by Esoteric Staffing

Booming business has led to a real people problem in the warehouse automation sector. By all accounts, industry leader Dematic blew the doors off in 2020. They reported hiring over 2,000 people in North America in the first 8 months of 2020, with plans for hundreds more before the end of the year. During a pandemic! That is almost 12 people every working day added to the roster at Dematic. Congrats!

Where did they come from? To be sure, some are new graduates and new entrants to the industry. But you can bet a significant number came from their competitors in the industry. If you manage a business related to the warehouse automation industry, there is a good chance you've lost an employee to Dematic. The automation industry needs more people.

There are 3 approaches the automation industry can take to mitigate the people problem:

Invest in education and training:

Germany has long confronted the human challenge with a dual system of education — a public-private system that invests in and promotes training and educational pathways to established and growing industries. Participants attend public vocational schools while receiving on-the-job training through a paid apprenticeship in a private-sector company.

Even if badly needed, restructuring the education system in the USA is not likely to occur any time soon. Technically inclined high-school and community-college students are an under-tapped source of industry talent. Yes, many universities offer co-op programs with established industry partnerships. But, investments in training need to be offered earlier in the educational journey. Automation companies would do well to encourage thriving career paths in the space between a G.E.D. and a graduate Engineering degree.

Providing paid apprenticeships for high-school and community-college students provides trained talent for companies and a solid career for employees. Don't wait for your competitors to train your employees and then steal them away at top dollar. As Richard Branson said, "Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to."

Freelance, part-time, and consulting workers provide flexibility and growth:

Add capacity to your team without adding to the direct-hire payroll. Unlike the Baby Boomer generation, Generation X, Y, and Millennials are less likely to expect or want a life-long career at a single company. They are more likely to forge their own way as freelancers, small company owners, and contract workers.

Embrace this talent pool by defining work that can be done remotely by non-direct employees. These go-their-own-way freelancers are by no means fickle freeloaders. In many cases, they are the best and brightest who have determined that controlling their own destiny is empowering. They will be dedicated to your cause; never mind the "contract" label. They are highly motivated and will work around the clock to solve your problems.

Industry specific platforms such as Esoteric Staffing exist to serve the automation industry freelancer and companies that need their services. The Esoteric platform provides a means of connecting those with specialized skills with those that need those skills. The common challenge of freelancers is marketing their services at the same time as being dedicated to an ongoing contract that requires their full attention.

Encourage, not just allow, work from anywhere:

The automation industry can maximize their talent pool by encouraging employees (and contractors) to work from anywhere. How we collaborate as humans in the workplace is changing rapidly. Think back to 2019 and consider how many meetings included someone on live video from their home office? How many meetings in 2020 included someone on live video from their home office? The answer was probably zero in 2019 and several in 2020. The barriers of communication and work from home are dissolving rapidly. Camaraderie, connection, and teamwork are finding new ways!

Your best employees may want to live near family, entertainment, in the city, or in the country. Encouraging your employees to live where they are most fulfilled will lead to engaged employees willing to go the extra mile to ensure their employers success. The difference here is encouraging vs. allowing. If employees feel that by working remotely, they will be subject to an under-class of "remote workers", no longer eligible for promotion, it really isn't much of a choice. Remote work doesn't sit right with you? That's fine. Dematic is hiring 12 people every single day.

The automation industry has a people problem. Ironically, the hardest part of running an automation business is finding qualified people. Treat your people well. Train them well. Keep growing.